I attended a one-room school as an eighth grader. The teacher was a middle-aged widow from Chicago. I never quite understood her motivation in moving to New Mexico to teach in a one-room country school 30 miles from the nearest town, but we all got along fine.
The school building contained one classroom, a kitchen and her living quarters. We had indoor plumbing, and her restroom was separate. A piano presided over one corner of the classroom, so we had music along with our other classes.
The building was fairly new and playground equipment was sparse -- swings and a merry-go-round. No landscaping had been done, so a couple of parents came and helped plant trees. The teacher turned the outdoor planting project into a botany study unit.
The total student population was about 16 kids. One of the bus driver’s sons and I were the eighth graders, so naturally we helped teach the younger students.
Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) wrote “To teach is to learn twice.” I can attest that observation is true because I learned things I’d missed or misunderstood in the earlier grades when later I became a teacher’s aid.
Our teacher taught us about our American way of government by bringing student government to our classroom. We had nominations for offices, one-day campaigns and elections. That wasn’t the end of it. The elected officials had specific obligations. New elections were held every four weeks, so we learned there’s a payback time for those who cause problems while in office.
As I recall, the busiest officer was Sheriff. The Sheriff had to be the referee when arguments threatened the peace. Many times the arguments dissolved in laughter when the Sheriff and the Judge forced the litigants into formal complaints that exposed their pettiness.
Forty years later we had a reunion with that teacher who by then was no longer middle aged, of course. My eighth grade classmate had become a university dean, and most of the rest of us had led successful lives. By success I mean human being success, not necessarily monetary success, although in a couple of cases that was true as well.
When we were asked, one by one, to share our memories of that school year, everybody -- even those who had been first or second graders that year – mentioned our student government. I find that interesting.
That year was during the “school consolidation” era, when the small town schools were closed and children were taken by bus to consolidated large schools, supposedly so they would have more “opportunities.” The main result, of course, was the small towns died because the local schools were the community’s lifeblood and when they were gone so was the community.
As for the “opportunities” the large schools were supposed to provide, I wonder. We wrote and performed plays, even making our own costumes.
Our teacher had a fairly extensive personal library which she generously shared with us.
I don’t know any Christian other than myself who, as an eighth grader, read the Koran.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.